The fog on the Tyne quickly disappeared as 800 contestants eagerly awaited the start of the inaugural Gateshead Half-Marathon. Hosted by Gateshead Harriers with Chris Parr at the helm, it was the first near-to-normal road race - after two postponements - for many months as the country’s lock-down eased and for those who zig-zagged their way round the twists and turns and ‘slight’ inclines on the Gateshead banks of the Tyne it was smiles (nearly) all the way.
As the first of nine waves eased across the start line in an otherwise deserted sun-drenched Gateshead International Stadium, the same stadium which hosted a rain-swept Diamond League fixture seven days earlier, it was pre-race favourite Liam Aldridge who led the early charge down to the riverside.
Wearing bib number one, Aldridge, of Billingham Marsh House Harriers, quickly established an early lead as the field took in a stretch of the Swing Bridge before doubling back to head west out to the furthest point from departure.
With two circuits of the course to negotiate Aldridge had quickly opened up a significant gap and by half-way he had a lead of around nearly two minutes over North Shields Poly’s David Green who had a similar advantage over Tyne Bridge duo Tom Charlton and Ryan Holt. Then came Green’s Poly team-mates Rhys Durrant and James Anderson. On the second circuit Aldridge continued to cut out a lone furrow as he enjoyed the support of an enthusiastic crowd lining the route while behind the battle for the minor placings remained unchanged.
A steep incline back into the stadium and the finish didn’t slow down Aldridge in any way as he found an extra step to cross the line in 68min 07secs – a new pb by 52 seconds - which, on a course not noted for producing fast times, was remarkable.
Meanwhile, behind, Green, who was contesting his first half-marathon since 2017 (Great North Run, 1:47.04), finished a comfortable runner-up in 72:48. Holt proved the stronger of the Tyne Bridge pair to complete the podium placings, crossing the line in 73:33 with Charlton next home in 74:20 followed by Durrant (75:55) and Anderson (76:42).
The host club celebrated a ‘home’ victory in the women’s race with victory going to Gillian Manford who, like Aldridge, was always in the driving seat. Despite the close attentions throughout by Yorkshire visitor Molly Cawthorn, the Tynesider still had 25 seconds in hand as she crossed the line in 86:43. Third place went to Kathryn Stevenson (Tyne Bridge), just 19 seconds adrift of Cawthorn to finish in 87:27.
While there always has to be winners, on this occasion, it can certainly be said that everyone was a winner and while it may have been tough out on the course there were plenty of Smiles on the Tyne as they crossed the finish and pick up there well-earned medal and goodies.
WHAT THEY SAID
LIAM ALDRIDGE – The course was really tough in comparison to my last outing in the Brass Monkey. The event was really well organised and it was good to get back racing again and seeing a few familiar faces. I was hoping to pick the pace up in the final two or three miles but it didn’t quite work out that way. Nevertheless, I’ll definitely be back to tackle those hills again!
GILLIAN MANFORD (from her holiday base in the Lake District) – It was definitely harder going than the Brass Monkey last year, it was a really tough race, very hot, very hilly! I was nowhere near my pb (82:57) but it was more about winning for me in those conditions. The first few miles were nice and the support along the Quayside was brilliant, I’m sure it helped everyone it certainly gave me a boost at a time when I was going through a rough patch due to a stitch which stayed with me for about four miles on the toughest section of the course.
During that spell I was grateful for the out-and-back sections as I could see the distance between me and the second-placed girl. It was really good finishing on the track in the stadium, especially as sometimes I train there, and then picking up some nice little goodies at the end! It was exciting to be back at a near normal racing event. It was really well organised, the atmosphere was buzzing throughout and I think everyone was just happy to have a bit of normality back. Also, for me, it was nice to know that lockdown training wasn’t for nothing!
CHRIS PARR (Race Organiser) – I’m so relieved now that the race is over and, what I’ve heard so far has been really positive. We had numerous hoops to jump through before we got the final go-ahead but in the end I think we got there. It certainly wasn’t the course I would have liked but then so what, l think everyone enjoyed the occasion of lining up in the first-ever Gateshead Half-Marathon. I also think the hills dotted around the course are a good thing to be honest – there are tons of ‘fast and flat’ races advertised but when you think about the classic races, they were about winning and mastering the course. I was too young for the Morpeth-Newcastle but I heard about Blagdon Bank, Elswick’s Denton Bank and Saltwell’s Chowdene Bank, all classic races from the past so I’ve already suggested our race includes Mount Gateshead!
SAVE THE DATE
@gatesheadhalf Sunday May 1st (Bank Holiday) 2022 - pending planning
Same again next year!!!